Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has called on Nigerian celebrities to utilise their platforms to promote voter education, youth inclusion and non-violent participation in the 2019 elections.
Yakubu made the call at an INEC Interactive Session/Dinner with INEC Youth Ambassadors/Celebrities held in Lagos on Saturday night.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the interaction was put together by INEC in collaboration with the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES).
The chairman, who was represented by Dr Adekunle Ogunmola, the National Commissioner of INEC in charge of Ogun, Ondo and Lagos States, reiterated the commission’s commitment to ensuring that youths are central in the electoral process.
“INEC, in line with its electoral policies, prioritises the participation of disadvantaged groups, including the youth in electoral process.
“The commission has overtime developed electoral cycle-based interventions and creative innovations on electoral issues affecting the youths.
“In 2014, the commission in collaboration with youth organisations conceptualised the idea of identifying from the entertainment industry, the media and outstanding youths influencers, while commissioning them as voter education youth ambassadors.
“We want you to utilise your platforms for disseminating voter education and non-violent messages to citizens,” Yakubu said.
“He recalled that some young celebrities were unveiled in 2015 as INEC Youth Ambassadors at an INEC Youth Summit held in Abuja with specific responsibility to engage citizens on peaceful participation,” he said.
NAN also reports that preparatory to the 2019 elections, INEC with support of European Union and ECES and Youth Initiative Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) embarked on a Campus Outreach.
According to the INEC boss, the ambassadors were prominent individuals who had distinguished themselves in the field of entertainment, arts, sports, democratic development and literature.
The chairman added that the ambassadors were selected based on profile and fellowship, reputation, credibility nonpartisan ship and commitment to volunteerism.
He said that the commission wanted increased participation of youth, women and persons with disability in order to boost citizens’ trust and confidence in electoral process.
Earlier, Prof. Antonia Okoosi-Simbine, INEC National Commissioner, said the interaction was aimed at sharing ideas on how to promote youths participation, calling for voter education and publicity
Okoosi-Simbine said the interaction was organised in a bid to upscale citizens’ mobilisation and outreach in order to deepen democracy.
She disclosed that the ambassadors were role models in mobilising youths for positive participation and as campaign for violence free elections.
Okoosi-Simbine pointed out that the scheme was guided by neutrality, professionalism, service, patriotism and volunteerism, adding that the aim was to mobilise large population of Nigerian youths through their various platforms.
She urged the ambassadors to use their platforms to disseminate electoral messages to the youths.
Also Speaking, Korede Bello, musician, and newly-inaugurated new ambassador, commended the commission for its strides to bridge voters education, urging the youths to come out to vote.
Gimba Umar, a presenter and new ambassador, decried the possession of PVCs by foreigners, vote buying and other ilegal electoral activities.
In his goodwill message, Mr Rudolf Elbing, ECES Project Coordinator, said that the country needed free and fair elections in 2019.
Elbing, who was represented by Mr Dominic Weerts, said the youths are the future of Africa and democracy, hence the need to collaborate with INEC to deliver credible and peaceful elections..
NAN reports that the event also witnessed decoration of 22 new Ambassadors and presentation of plaques.
The commission had before the 2015 general elections inaugurated a team of successful Nigerian Youths as its first crop of youth ambassadors for the purpose of working with INEC in reducing and curtailing electoral violence.
The ambassadors, who included singers, comedians, actors, actresses, journalists were: Innocent Idibia (2Baba), Ime Okon (Bishop), Michael Ifeanyichukwu, Ijeoma Okoye, Ibrahim Adra, Alex Ibe, Ali Muhammed and Gideon Okeke.
Others are: Helen Paul, Adam Zango, Seun Okinbaloye, Frank Edwards and Akintayo Faniran.
Some of the new ambassadors/celebrities included: Bright Okpacha, Ayo Makun, Uti Nwachukwu, Korede Bello, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, Chidinma Emile, Jude Abaga, Yakubu Mohammed, Cabhams Asuquo, Gimba Umar and Aituaje Wake.
Others are: Adesuwa Etomi, Ikubese Emmanuel, Anti Lecky, Above Ugboma, Stanley Chibuna, Chioma Omeruah, Jephthah Bowoto, Uche Okechukwu, Fati Washa, Sank Danja and Yinka Ayefele.